My spine on steroids . . . a tailbone tale

After two months of physical therapy in summer of 2019, my doctor wanted to get an MRI on my lower back. The results came in late October of the same year.

“The good news is that your spine is stable and you probably won’t wake up paralyzed some morning.”

My doctor’s first words, verbatim.

As I’d been worrying about that little matter, that was somewhat of a relief to hear!

“The bad news is you have degenerative disk disease with one disk virtually obliterated, another in bad shape, a bulging disk, spinal stenosis and multiple pinched nerves. You’re in for it.”

His next words or close enough . . .

He went on to say that spine conditions are difficult for the medical profession to treat and that surgery was not out of the question. His first recommendation was spinal steroid shots to calm the nerves being pinched in both my legs. I wasn’t terribly keen and less so after doing research. The shots are not a cure. If you are lucky, they relieve pain. If unlucky, there can be some fairly serious complications, including infection, blindness, stroke and paralysis. The FDA feels the risk of these injections outweigh the rewards.

As I wasn’t doing badly with pain at the time, I wanted to wait, see how I managed. I asked if an inversion table might be helpful. Doc said it couldn’t hurt, so I purchased one. Inversion took some getting used to but provides a little relief.

All last winter I had various flare-ups. Little things would set off big pain. Getting off-balance while cleaning a cat box. Being at the hospital all day with my husband when he had surgery. Cleaning the floor of my husband’s closet.

After Covid-19 arrived in March 2020, bi-weekly grocery shopping trips pushing a heavily loaded cart during the initial “stay-at-home” orders became my kryptonite! So we opted to have fresh produce delivered via subscription. That’s been kind of fun, actually, though it isn’t always easy for me to get the produce stored when it arrives.

With pain continuing to worsen, I finally tried spinal steroid injections this summer. The procedure went OK, no complications. No relief, either. The injections made my nerve pain WORSE!

Next, the physiatrist tried me on a drug used to soothe nerves, Gabapentin. This drug gave me extreme double-vision, unsteadiness and left me so brain-fogged I couldn’t operate a blender! Taking the drug right before bedtime, the side effects lasted eight LONG hours after I woke the next morning! When the drug finally wore off, I cried tears of relief at feeling like myself again! No more of that!

After the drug disaster, our health insurance allowed for a neurosurgeon consult. My appointment was with the surgeon’s assistant, who put me in a back brace, which does seem to actually help! A slight ray of hope, yay! It also keeps my boobs above my waistline, that’s quite the bonus at my age!

The assistant said they prefer to see if pain can be managed non-surgically, because surgery means a spinal fusion and a lengthy recovery. So he prescribed more physical therapy, only not in-town. Unfortunately, car rides cause me pain now. In spite of that, I wanted to try, because the plan was to develop a home exercise program for me. In times of Covid, no one wants to rely on a gym!

So, my husband drove me to therapy twice a week. Fifty miles there and fifty back. When I’d get back home after a session, I could barely sit long enough to eat lunch, then I’d have to lay down for hours afterward, all the while feeling like someone was trying to cut through my ankles with a dull pair of pruning loppers. NOT FUN!

Last week saw the end of PT. I’ve had to rest and recover somewhat from all that car travel, but will be resuming my new home exercise program tomorrow.

I don’t know what the future holds, but then, neither does anyone else!

Happy to have this post out of my system . . . thanks for listening!

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